Push yourself: Bermuda’s paralympian Jessica Lewis hopes to inspire others to fulfil their dreams in her upcoming talk at the TEDx conference. She is pictured at the Bermuda National Stadium where much of her training has taken place.  *Photo by Sarah Lagan
Push yourself: Bermuda’s paralympian Jessica Lewis hopes to inspire others to fulfil their dreams in her upcoming talk at the TEDx conference. She is pictured at the Bermuda National Stadium where much of her training has taken place.  *Photo by Sarah Lagan
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WEDNESDAY, OCT. 3: When she was growing up, Bermuda’s paralympian Jessica Lewis was raised the same as any able bodied person.

She says that this was one of the major reasons she was able to become what she is today — the island’s first track and field athlete to compete in the Paralympics.

Lewis will be giving an inspirational talk at the upcoming Tedx Conference at the Fairmont Southampton Resort on October 13.

The 19-year-old competed in no less than three different track races at the London 2012 Paralympics in September — the T53 100m, 200m and 400m finals finishing in 8th place.

Lewis, who was born without the use of her legs, told the Bermuda Sun: “I will start my talk at the beginning when I was born prematurely. I weighted 3lbs and my mother could fit me from here to here,” she said pointing from her wrist to her elbow.

“My family has always been helpful — I remember when I was two or three-years-old and I was trying to get up on to a chair.

“My mother wouldn’t help me get up, she wanted me to do it on my own — some people might see that as mean but I see it as a way for me to learn.

“She had to let me do everything that an able bodied could do and not treat me differently — that taught me a lot.

“I struggled but once I got in the chair, you know, I felt so proud of myself and I knew how to do it.

“I became independent that way — it pushed me to find ways to do things.”

Sport has been a part of Lewis’s life since as far back as she can remember. From the age of two she began swimming lessons and by the time she was three she was swimming without armbands.

When she was five she joined a sporting programme at WindReach recreational centre and never looked back.

“Sport is everything I know and it has helped me so much to come out and accept who I am. It has given me something that I can be proud of doing and something I can be
good at.”

Lewis intends to talk about the whole experience of competing in one of the greatest sporting competitions in the world, from carrying the Bermuda flag at the opening ceremony to crossing the finish line.

Asked what was going through her mind at the starting line of her races, Lewis turned to her mother Lorri and asked if she could say what she was really thinking.

At her mother’s approval she told us: “Basically — holy s**t! That was what I kept thinking on that starting line. I thought, ‘holy s**t I am here, there are 80,000 people in this place looking at eight of us and I made it here.”

Above all Lewis hopes that her words will inspire others to follow their dreams.

“The TEDx talks range so much — I feel really honoured that my story is worthy enough to be in one of these talks. I really hope it inspires everybody and show people that just because we have a disability it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.

“We can still achieve something really big. Hopefully it might inspire someone (with a disability) to follow in my footsteps.

“Someone in a chair telling them they can do these things might click more than an able bodied person saying you can go and try this and if they see it happen then they can believe it can happen.”

TEDx

The full line-up of local and international speakers is as follows:

  • Jessica Lewis, Bermudian Paralympian, on making it to London 2012
  • John Sculley, former Apple CEO, on how sensors and the Cloud will change medicine
  • Ross Stein, a geophysicist and one of the world’s most cited experts on earthquake science, who will explain how we can better forecast and manage the threat of earthquakes
  • Felix Tod, music producer, on saving the music industry
  • Sossina Haile, a professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering who is working towards a carbon-neutral world by turning CO2 into fuel
  • Norman Seeff, a world-renowned filmmaker and photographer who has dedicated much of his life to better understanding thecreative process
  • Hanli Prinsloo, freediving record holder and conservationist, on human connection to the sea: “I am Water”
  • K Gabrielle, born Kassandra Gabrielle Caines, Bermuda vocalist
  • Eric Barnhill, medical physicist and former concert pianist, on healing with music
  • Peter Bentley, on “Embracing Chaos”—why science must learn from the randomness of nature

TEDx event is produced with the support of the following sponsors:
Presenting Partner: Catlin Bermuda. Host Partners: Capital G Bank Limited and PartnerRe. Benefactors: BELCO, CellOne, HSBC, RenaissanceRe and XL Group. Visionary: North Rock Communications. In Kind: Bermuda Sun, Island Press and Bermuda Blueprinting

Where: The Fairmont Southampton Resort
When: Saturday, October 13 from 1–6 pm (doors open at 12:30 pm)
Tickets: Available online from Ptix at: Early bird tickets are $50 (last day is today) or $65 regular from www.ptix.bm.